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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

RGCU Field at Isotopes Park - New Mexico United

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

RGCU Field at Isotopes Park 1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE Albuquerque, NM 87106

Year Opened: 2003 Capacity: 13,279

Somos Unitos

Attending a New Mexico United soccer match is a blast! The fans are certainly into it, there’s a fantastic supporters’ group and the organization does a tremendous job ensuring all fans are welcome, accepted, and free from derogatory name-calling. Strong reminders of the code of conduct are announced before the start of the game (both English and Spanish)!

The New Mexico United play in the USL Championship League (one step down from MLS – Major League Soccer). The club began operations in 2019 with only one ‘home’ game played in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic.

The club plays its home matches at Isotopes Park (Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park), home of the Albuquerque Isotopes baseball team. Though it is common enough, I find it odd watching soccer on a baseball diamond. New Mexico United manages it well and hats off to the grounds crew and staff for maintaining the field and integrating a lively soccer atmosphere.

Food & Beverage 5

The park offers an excellent variety of food with several local restaurants providing the fare. Permanent concession stands and carts line the inner concourse. Almost all concession stands are open for United matches. Fans can carry sealed bottled water into the stadium.

Concession stands include Batter Up! (burgers, chicken baskets, fries, nachos, sopapillas, etc.), Pecos River Café (sandwiches, burritos, etc.), and Sante Fe Trail (BBQ hot dogs, sandwiches, green chile cheddar brat from $5 – $10). Dion’s Pizza is always a fan favorite ($5 – $6 / slice and fans can get green chile on top, salads cost $7). The Sweet Spot and More, down the third base side, offers various nacho choices, burritos, green chile dog, tortilla burgers from $7 – $12.

A Hebrew National cart sells their famous hot dog ($5) and a sausage cart is on the third base concourse ($9). Other carts offer funnel cakes, kettle corn, Dippin’ Dots, and there’s a unique lemonade cart offering its various flavors brewed in jugs. A craft beer cart along the first baseline sells draft beers from New Mexico breweries Santa Fe Brewing and Bosque Brewing as well as canned beer such as Dogfish Head ($10 – $12). Other carts offering adult beverages and snacks dot the concourse. Most stands offer domestic beers and Pepsi brand sodas (beer $10 – $12, soda $6 – $8). There’s certainly plenty available for hungry soccer fans.

Atmosphere 5

The organization provides an amazing match day experience.

First, the field alignment: One goalpost is just about on the first base side; the other is in left field under the video scoreboard. The right-center field holds the player benches; the dugouts are not used. The grounds crew remove and flatten out the pitcher’s mound and put artificial turf on the infield. It looks awful on that area of the field.

Second, the seating: One nice thing about using a baseball field is the seats are standard stadium fold-down seats; not bleachers. Sit in section 177 for the center of the pitch. The same berm seating is available in the ‘outfield’ as it is during a baseball game. Except for the infield sections behind home plate, the nets are gone. Fans sitting in the second level, third base side (sections 201, 203, 205) see the beautiful Sandia Mountains in the distance. Alcohol is not allowed in a designated family section (section 126).

Announcements (safety and rules) are broadcast in both English and Spanish. During the starting lineup notice, the announcer states the player’s number and first name, the crowd yells the last name. Same with goals except that’s done three times in a row. Fun!

A video scoreboard behind one of the goalposts shows a live visual broadcast of the game as well as the time played and goals per team. The second scoreboard is not used. Half-time includes contests and local youth teams kick a ball around. Beach balls get tossed around in the stands. The exterior of the stadium gives no indication soccer is played there but the fans know!

New Mexico United Scoreboard, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 4

The ballpark sits adjacent to Central New Mexico College and the University of New Mexico (UNM), and is across the street from The Pit and other UNM Lobo sports venues. It is a mile from the Nob Hill neighborhood, a vibrant area full of brewpubs, eateries, taquerias, pizzerias, local boutiques, and small art galleries. Sounds from music bars fill the late-night air in this neighborhood.

For breakfast, try Frontier. A hidden gem for Korean food is Soo Bak Seoul Bowl. For authentic, tasty New Mexico fare visit Cocina Azul – even the rice and beans are yummy. Unbeknownst to the rest of the country, Albuquerque is a hopping local brewery town. Recommended breweries close (though not necessarily walking distance) to Isotopes Park are The 377 Brewing, Gravity Bound Brewing, and Marble Brewery. But there are plenty more to visit.

Things to see and do while in Albuquerque include Sandia Peak Tramway, Old Town Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument, and of course, take a ride in a hot air balloon.

For places to stay when in town, plenty of hotels are available at the intersection of Gibson Blvd and Yale Blvd (about a mile from the park) ranging from La Quinta to Marriott brands to Holiday Inns, many with shuttles to and from the airport.

Fans 5

New Mexico United fans are loud and proud. A supporter’s group, called The Curse, make quite an impression at home matches. The most ardent assemble pregame, march into the venue on the first base side, then walk the entire concourse chanting, waving flags, banging on drums. One leader with a New Mexico flag cape orchestrates the group. It’s extremely impressive. Two sections behind the first base goal (sections 116 and 118) are full of these supporters who cheer, clap, yell, wave flags and create a brouhaha throughout the entire match.

NM United - The Curse Supporter's Group Circles the Concourse, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

By no means are they the only ones who chant, cheer, and yell. Many followers wave flags throughout the game and on the concourse. A good portion of the crowd wears New Mexico United, Meow Wolf, and Somos Unidos attire. And, of course, all fans have a second job of being a referee. The club led the USL Championship their first season with an average attendance in 2019 of 12,693 a match.

Access 4

Approaching and traversing Isotopes Park is relatively easy. It is just a block off of I-25 with plenty of nearby parking ($10) across the intersection. Visitors or residents of Albuquerque may find it just as easy to get to via side streets vs getting on the interstate.

Two bus stops are across the street but figuring out the ABQ bus schedule is difficult. An Amtrak station is about two miles from Isotopes Park. The closest airport is Albuquerque Sunport Airport, about a 5-min drive to the ballpark.

Three entrances are available with the one behind home used only for those with club or VIP tickets. Fans are required to use clear plastic tote bags; no backpacks. The concourse gets quite crowded, especially at halftime. Patrons can walk the entire concourse circumference. Fans must cross a small bridge to complete the circle (fans afraid of heights and such things may find this difficult).

Re-entry is not permitted. Local law officials do a fantastic job moving cars out of the parking lots after the game.

Return on Investment 4

Single-game tickets run $20 – $55 and are comparable to other USL Championship club ticket prices. Parking increases to $10 vs. $5 for an Isotopes game. Food and beverage costs are comparable to other sports parks, albeit higher than restaurants and bars outside the stadium. The game is fun, the fans are a hoot, and the organization does a splendid job at making the evening one of enjoyable, safe sports entertainment.

Extras 3

Stadium Journey cannot say enough about The Curse supporters’ group and how they’ve created an identity just for New Mexicans. In March 2020, the club launched the Somos Unidos Foundation, a charitable nonprofit arm of the New Mexico United organization. Both the club and the supporters’ group do a great job at bolstering the team spirit as well as strengthening the communities of New Mexico. The team markets themselves quite well on social media.

Final Thoughts

The community certainly supports New Mexico United. The results of a feasibility study to see if and where a soccer-specific stadium could go and what it should look like are expected in summer 2021. Time will tell. Until then, if in the area, take the time to see a match. It’s worth a sports fans entertainment dollar.

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